The Clintons: Like Mother, Like Daughter

By Kim Krueger & Sophie Park


Sports commercial aficionados will know the one: a booming Morgan Freeman-esque voice over frames sports greatness with the metaphor of “lightning striking twice”. The Manning brothers, the Williams sisters…I’m sure the list goes on, but while the rest of the commercial escapes me (I couldn’t even find it on YouTube!), it was that precise metaphor of lightning striking twice that I kept remembering as I compared notes with a colleague: I saw Hillary Clinton keynote at HIMSS14 last month, while my colleague saw Chelsea Clinton speak at SXSW this past week. Some may argue that the figure of speech hardly applies when it comes to family lineage, but if I’m going to concede that point then one thing here is certain: like mother, like daughter.

Both women are knowledgeable, engaged figures in the health landscape. Many are familiar with Hillary’s extended health resume, and Chelsea has become an independent force herself with the Clinton Foundation and through her work in global health. In both their speeches, despite different backgrounds in health and entirely different settings for the talks, the Clinton women returned to similar themes when it comes to improving health care: use data and innovate appropriately.

In her speech at HIMSS, Hillary dazzled the crowd with her confidence and charisma in front of an audience of thousands. Speaking freely for about twenty minutes on recent advances in medical technology, the benefits of shifting from volume-base care to value-based care, and innovative new ways of delivering care, Hillary kept her talk high-level and complimentary. After all, she was speaking to a room full of health IT professionals. Yet, Hillary still made some valuable points. In particular, her emphasis on the need for evidence-based medicine and decision making was one that resonated strongly with the audience and would be echoed by her daughter mere weeks later as the much anticipated closing keynote at SXSW Interactive.

Chelsea Clinton, now the Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, delivered her keynote on the role of technology and data in global health care. Chelsea opened her keynote by sharing stories of her interaction with technology from her early childhood years — when Santa Claus gifted her a commodore computer — to her later years teaching her father, President Clinton, how to email and text (apparently he only sent two emails while he was the President!).

In a packed auditorium of several hundred in attendance, the younger Clinton touched on some current issues trending in global health technology. This is where Clinton issued some advice when it comes to that favored Silicon Valley buzz word. Chelsea said that while innovation is good, we can’t always chase the latest and greatest technology. Rather, let’s celebrate what already works. Clinton mentioned apps like iCow, an agricultural app in Africa helping dairy farmers in Kenya track the fertility of their cows, and BRCK, a portable back-up generator for Internet in Nairobi, which is used by physicians, caregivers, and patients alike to connect to the Internet. These types of ‘appropriate’ innovations are the ones that will have a meaningful impact because they are the ones that will be adopted and scaled for widespread use.

While Hillary’s remarks made for an enthralling if short-lived affair, Chelsea’s 30-minute keynote seemed dispassionate, stiff, and significantly scripted. That persona was perhaps a reflection on experience, but when it came to Q&A, both women excelled. For Hillary, this meant answering questions from HIMSS CEO H. Stephen Lieber for the better part of forty minutes on topics ranging from Vladimir Putin to feminism to a potential 2016 candidacy. Chelsea’s Q&A, on the other hand, moderated by Fast Company Editor Robert Safian, saw her stage presence make a complete 180 degree turn as she quickly became a more charismatic, true-to-form Clinton, at one point exclaiming her disgust with diarrhea as a dehydrating child-killer.

‘Like mother, like daughter’ can be a haunting comparison for some women, but it can also be a huge source of pride. With Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, the familiar phrase is spot on in the best possible way. Both women are intelligent players in the health care space working towards improving the field at large in ways that make sense and are within their power to do. We’re lucky to have such impassioned, powerful voices focused on health care. Who knows, maybe Mom will take the lead in 2016 and become the second of three Clinton presidents…you heard it here first.

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